Those of you who read our review of Ichakowia Raizo in the Third Shadow know that people in powerful positions often have body doubles. In the Third Shadow, Raizo plays a body double to the reigning warlord due to their uncanny resemblance. As we saw in the Third Shadow, some of the benefits of masquerading as the lord included living a life of luxury, sleeping with beautiful women and getting large stipends. The same principle and techniques are still being used today. Uday Hussein was the sadistic psychopathic son of Saddam Hussein and was considered by many to be even crueler than his ruthless father. Worried about assassination and other attacks, Uday decided that he needed a double like the several his father employed. An old classmate of his from University, who had an eerie resemblance to the dictator’s son, was chosen to be Uday’s body double.
Enter the Devil’s Double, a movie which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was only released on a limited basis throughout the United States. The movie is based on the book written by Latif Yahia who was forced to be Uday’s decoy and to this day bears 26 scars on his body from bullets, grenades and the like. After viewing the film, Yahia said it was about 80% accurate the other 20% was toned down for audiences. Apparently, he has to take pretty healthy doses of Valium every night in order to sleep and fend off the nightmares.
Only knowing what I had seen and heard on the news about the depravity of Saddam’s children this film was a real eye-opener. In 1987, Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper), an Iraqi soldier fighting on the front lines in the Iran–Iraq War, is recalled to become a “fedai” (“body double” or political decoy) for Uday Hussein (also played by Cooper), the playboy son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast). Latif comes from an upper-class family and had attended university with Uday, where everyone would remark on their likeness. Foolishly, Latif initially refuses the position, but is tortured, and ultimately relents when his family is threatened. Latif even has to undergo cosmetic surgery to perfect his resemblance to Uday. Like our protagonist in the Third Shadow, he is given access to all of the luxurious benefits of the Husseins’ fortune, including massive palaces, expensive wardrobes, Uday’s vast exotic cars collection and women (only if Uday gives him permission first). Latif tries to resist Uday’s exorbitant carousing and erratic behavior only to be stopped, threatened and captured by Uday’s own inner circle of bodyguards. The first assassination attempt we see in the film is during an appearance at a conference with various Kuwaiti leaders. There, as Latif is exiting the building a bloody attempt is made on Uday’s (Latif’s) life by a member of the Kurdish rebels. And who can blame them, after all his father did use poison gas in his efforts to suppress the Kurds. The real Uday, though, is more concerned with the Kuwaitis, who he believes have been slant drilling from Iraq’s Rumaila oil field. The first Gulf War is launched with Uday decreeing “The Age of the Sheikhs is over!” Obviously this chump has his priorities straight.
As the movie progresses, the real Uday becomes more and more debauched to the point of kidnapping 14-year-old girls as well as brides on their wedding day. Killing them after he’s had his way with their bodies. Latif sits and watches in disgust as his master sinks further and further into a hellish world of mayhem and self-destruction. Even Uday’s father wanted to kill him on more than one occasion. Apparently Saddam had a valet that he trusted and Saddam trusted no one. During a party authorized by his father, a frustrated Uday takes a bottle of liquor and smashes it into the valet head causing nothing less than severe trauma. When his father found out what he had done, he showed up with a loaded gun in his hand, pointed it at his son’s head and said if he (the valet) doesn’t live that he (Uday) would not live either. This moron went so far as to cut someone open with an electric knife at a party given for the President of Egypt’s wife right on the buffet table. After he realized what he’d done, Uday tried to kill himself by over dosing on sleeping pills. In my opinion, it was merely a ploy to garner sympathy and avoid torture or execution by his father. When Saddam shows up at the hospital, he holds a knife to Uday’s private parts and threatens to cut it off only relenting when the Doctor pleads with him saying that Uday will die because of the blood loss.
The film also points out that Latif was not only used as a decoy for would be assassins, but was also a tool for political purposes. Uday’s double was the one sent to the front to give moral boosting speeches to the troops, where several near miss assassination attempts were made on the decoy who sustained serious injuries.
Examples accumulate showing the audience just how sick this Uday was. Luckily, Latif was able to escape to Malta where a would-be assassin sent by Uday just misses shooting him as soon as he arrives on the island. Uday calls Latif and offers him one final chance to return to Iraq, threatening to kill his father if he refuses. Latif’s father encourages him not to return so he is killed.
However, Latif does return to Iraq to kill Uday with the help of a man whose bride had killed herself after being raped and beaten by Uday on their wedding day. In an adapted version of the real attempt on Uday’s life made in 1996, Latif and his partner ambush Uday while he is attempting to lure young girls into his Porsche. They wound him severely, including–consistent with unconfirmed reports of the real-life attack–mangling his genitals with direct shots. One of Uday’s bodyguards catches up to Latif as he runs away from the scene. This guard, however, is one that Latif could have killed as he fled from Uday’s birthday party before leaving the country. However, Latif spared his life and the guard returned the favor—also, in my opinion, he is silently condoning the shooting of Uday who is clearly out of control.
The fact that the real Uday body double said that 20% of the film was toned down shows good taste on the directors’ part. Otherwise The Devils Double might have been something akin to a gory Asian horror movie. For me, the film also validates the age old adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It makes me ask how a person who has the opportunity to rule a country wastes such a chance by becoming such a cruel perverted sadist in the true sense of the word.
Good movie. Donald Cooper, playing both Uday and Latif, does an excellent job by acting in two roles that are polar opposite in their makeup. I don’t know why the film was only released selectively in the States, but when you get a chance take a look at the Devils Double, if nothing else you will learn a lot about the inner workings of one of the world most ruthless and corrupt families.